The 400th V-22 Osprey Has Been Delivered to the U.S. Military
The Bell Textron Boeing V-22 Osprey replaced a pair of military helicopters with a revolutionary capability. Operation Eagle Claw, the aborted rescue of Americans from Iran in 1980, showed that improvements in certain performance and operational areas were needed to be able to plan and succeed with any missions like that in the future. Forty years later, the fruition of these improvements is the Bell Boeing MV-/CV-22 Osprey, of which the 400th airframe was recently delivered.
The Department of Defense launched the new “Joint-service Vertical take-off/landing Experimental” program in 1981, and the V-22 Osprey first flew in 1989. The twin-engined tiltrotor aircraft combined a helicopter’s slow speed and hover capabilities with a relatively fast cruise speed when in “airplane” mode. A team made up of Bell Helicopter and Boeing Helicopters divisions won the Development contract in 1983.
After a long test and re-engineering program, the U.S. Marine Corps went operational with their first MV-22 version in 2007, allowing the retirement of their CH-46 Sea Knights and CH-53D Sea Stallions.
The Air Force had already identified that their MH-53 Pave Low III helicopters were long in tooth, having served in the Viet Nam war decades earlier, and the new CV-22s helped to replace their capability, beginning in 2009. Recently, the U.S. Navy is awaiting delivery of new CMV-22 airframes, which will be used for ship-to-ship replenishment, allowing the long-serving Grumman C-2A COD to retire.
At times, due to accidents, the Osprey procurement has been held up until investigations were completed and fixes, if needed, were implemented. Recently, a steady production of Ospreys has allowed the 400th airframe’s delivery to occur in June, 2020. The U.S. Air Force received the milestone aircraft, a new CV-22B for their Special Operations forces.
The Marine Corps will ultimately order 360 MV-22s, plus an additional dozen or so for Presidential support (with HMX-1). The Air Force has around 50 of their CV-22 version, and the U.S. Navy looks to operate a few more than 40 of the tiltrotors. Reading between the lines, there should be around 470 Ospreys built for the U.S. military branches. Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force had ordered 5 Ospreys, and they are the only non-U.S. military operator.